An overview of Exodus entitled, “All the World’s a Stage,” was preached in 2002 at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC, by Mark Dever. This was also included in his 2006 book, The Message of the Old Testament.
Exodus 35-37…Constructing the tabernacle.
As would be expected, constructing a beautiful structure like the tabernacle out of the finest materials (Exodus 26) could not be done for free. God had to provide the gold, costly threads, silver, brass, animal hides, etc., either through direct intervention or indirectly through moving His people to give what they had for the important work of building His tent. We see in Exodus 35:4–29 that the Lord worked not apart from Israel but through Israel to gather the necessary materials.
Moses made known the need for Israel to donate time, talent, and funds to the work of God, perhaps through telling the elders of the people and then having them share the news with the nation (Exodus 35:4–19). In any case, Moses’ action demonstrates that it is appropriate for the leaders of God’s people to let those under their care know what is needed to support the work of ministry, whether it is funds for buildings and salaries, time surrendered to teach or to care for church grounds, special donations to expand the outreach of para-church ministries and seminaries, and any of the other countless, godly endeavors that help in small ways to advance the kingdom.
Israel responded with lavish generosity, choosing to live on less in order to fund the worship ministry. Note that the people gave what they “could” (vv. 23–24) and were not encouraged to give anything they did not have. This is an important principle in a day when televangelists encourage people to contribute “in faith,” which often means giving more than is prudent or worse, taking out loans that cannot be repaid because of the false promise of a hundredfold return.
Exodus 29-31…Sacrifices, ceremonies, burnt offerings, and the sabbath.
Aaron and his sons were to be set apart for the priest’s office, with ceremony and reverence. Our Lord Jesus is the great High Priest, called by God, anointed with the Spirit. He is called Messiah, the Christ. He is clothed with glory and beauty, perfectly holy, and consecrated through His sufferings (Hebrews 2:10). All believers are spiritual priests, called to offer spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5), washed in the blood of Christ. We also are clothed with the beauty of holiness, and have received the anointing (1 John 2:27). The Spirit of God is called the finger of God, (Luke 11:20; Matthew 12:28,) and by Him the holiness of Christ is applied to our souls. This signifies the admission of a sinner into the spiritual priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
The law was written in tables of stone, to show how lasting it is. This also symbolizes the hardness of our hearts. It is easier to write something on a stone, than to write any thing good on our hardened natural hearts. Only God can write his law in our hearts, and give us desires in line with His. Only God could have perfectly obeyed His own law, and did so in Christ.
Exodus 26-28…Design plans for the tabernacle, the altar of burnt offerings, and the priestly garments.
There is much that could be said about the tabernacle’s design, but perhaps the most important thing to remember is that it was designed to be a copy of the Almighty’s heavenly throne room. The ark of the covenant sat within the Most Holy Place as the Lord’s footstool (Exodus 26:34), and the cherubim woven into the curtains of the tabernacle were depictions of the heavenly host that glorify God day and night in heaven (Exodus 26:1).
Clearly, the details of the tabernacle, altar, and priestly garments were to be a sign that there is a massive separation between our holy God and sinners. Entering His presence is no small matter, and His worship must be carefully guarded so His name is not profaned. The care given to entering God’s presence because of sin shows just how desperately we need a savior to intercede on our behalf. Christ’s sacrifice was pleasing to God, because of His holiness. It is a healthy spiritual practice to remember this huge chasm each day, so we esteem Jesus properly, and cling to His righteousness, seeking to grow in righteousness ourselves.
Exodus 23-25…The last few laws, the covenant confirmed, and offerings for the tabernacle.
Three observations about these chapters:
1) God desires our worship
In Exodus 23, the last of the laws are given, and God expects the people to obey. He desires our worship of His word and His ways. He tells Moses in Exodus 23:13, “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.” This piece of instruction closes the loop on the commands in Exodus. Back in Exodus 20, the first commandment was “you shall have no other gods before me.” Now, as the Lord concludes, He gives them some hints on how to carefully live this out practically. Carefulness, specifically avoiding speech that includes other gods. For us, this means being intentional about what we talk about. Do you ever discuss God’s word with someone else? Or are you constantly obsessed with talking about your troubles, your difficulties, your life? What are most of your conversations about?
2) God provides spiritual help for His people
Exodus 23:20 tell us, “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” God has sent His Son for us and His Spirit to work in us to preserve us until we’re called home or He returns. But not only that, Christ has established His church, which is like a foreign embassy for heaven. Are you struggling to pursue Him joyfully? Commit to a local church, and live out this spiritual battles in this life with other believers. Share your life with them. Pour into them, and let them pour into you. The bible has no category for the long ranger Christian.
3) Salvation requires bloodshed
As we’ve progressed through this year-long study, beginning in Genesis 1 and now through Exodus 25, we have seen clearly that humans don’t initiate with God, but He pursues them. The blood of the covenant in Exodus 24 is a symbol of the blood Christ would shed for us. To pretend that one can come to God without blood atonement simply means that one is not coming to the one true God, to the God of the Bible, for the God of Holy Scripture lives in holy love. Yes, some have invented a convenient God of “love” who has no character of holiness in which that love functions, and to which he holds his image-bearers accountable. But this is a mere idol of the mind, who can be used to do the bidding of his deluded inventors. You will not meet such a “God” in the Scriptures. On the contrary, the true God of infinite love is at the same time a God of infinite holiness. That is why Hebrews 9:22 states: “without shedding of blood is no remission of sins.”
Exodus 17-19…God brings about water from the rock, Jethro visits Moses, and God instructs Moses at Mount Sinai.
The Rock is one of the titles of Jehovah (Deut. 32:15). In 1 Corinthians 10:1–4, we read that the Rock (of Horeb) was Christ. Christ would stand in our place, the place of the accused, and bear judgment for the sins of His people. The rod is a symbol of judgment—in this case, divine judgment, for Moses was God’s representative. By the rod, Jesus was smitten, and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5) from sin. In the same way, by the smiting of the rock at Horeb, water flowed forth, just as the Holy Spirit flows forth from Christ to nourish and equip His church. And so, in the Old Testament, we see this beautiful picture of God’s grace in the salvation of His people, for He stands in our place so that by His wounds we will be healed.
In Exodus 19, Moses gives us an inspired account of what happened at Sinai when the Israelites arrived. God made His presence known on the beginning of the third day, descending as fire and enveloping the mountain in lightning, thunder, cloud and smoke (vv. 16–19). This was truly an awesome sight, and it was meant to remind the people that the God who set them free was no deity to be taken lightly. Other passages of Scripture tell us that angels were also present (Galatians 3:19), their submission to the Lord being a further indication of His glory and power. God’s holiness is also demonstrated in His appearance to the people at Sinai, as the need for the people to be purified is stressed. They are also forbidden to touch the mountain lest they be destroyed (Exodus 19:9–15).
Our need for a Savior is woven throughout these chapters. Each day, we need to be laid low, humbling ourselves before God in repentance, and esteeming Jesus greatly. The more we grow in our understanding of the massive chasm between God and us because of our sin and His holiness, the more we’ll love Christ. If we believe in Him for any other reason, we’ve missed the entire point of Christianity.
Exodus 14-16…The Lord parts the Red Sea, the song of Moses and Miriam is sung, and the Lord sends manna and quail for the Israelites in the desert.
Three observations about these chapters:
1) God’s judgement is certain for those who disobey.
The Lord delivers the Israelites by parting the Red Sea and destroying the Egyptians. Just like the Egyptians, we have a certain, pending doom if we don’t repent and believe. This should motivate us to share the gospel with friends and family who do not believe. They will face an eternal judgement far worse being drown by the Red Sea. If we love them, we need to not only tell them with our words, but also show them with our actions, that there is great power in the gospel to redeem.
2) A right response to understanding His judgement involves being laid low before Him.
Notice the end of Exodus 14 (verses 30-31), which leads into a prayer of praise to God.
“That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”
If we’re to truly place our faith in the Lord, we must understand His power and wrath against our sin. The Israelites did, and in Chapter 15, Moses and Miriam lead the people in a song about how great and powerful He is. This is what turning to the Lord in authentic faith looks like. Being laid low, rightly grasping our nothingness, then proclaiming our desperate need for Him.
3) Like the Israelites, we grumble and complain because of our unbelief, yet God continues to extend us mercy.
Despite this initial burst of faith, the Israelites become lukewarm. They distrust the Lord’s goodness, and quickly forget His mercy and grace. Yet, He is faithful, slow to anger and abounding in love. He blesses them because of an intercessor; Moses communicates with the Lord on their behalf, which is a picture of what Christ does for us. Moses was interceding on a micro level in Exodus 16, whereas Christ intercedes in the most important way possible. His perfect life is what the Lord sees when He looks upon us.
Exodus 11-13…The death of the first-born is threatened and then brought to fruition, the passover instituted, and the Israelites flee and are rescued by God miraculously parting the Red Sea.
The death of all the first-born in Egypt had been the first threatened, but the last to be executed. See how slow God is to anger. Also, notice that this was for everyone. The prince was not too high to be reached by it, nor the slaves at the mill too low to be noticed. God does not change. He has this same patience with us. We too, are not exempt from His wrath. It doesn’t matter if we grew up in church, know all the Bible stories, and prayed the sinner’s prayer. We desperately need Jesus. The fruit that comes from submitting our lives to Him should be evident. We cannot just agree with the gospel in principle, but need to be transformed by it in our daily lives.
In Exodus 12, the passover was instituted. It was to be kept every year, both as a remembrance of Israel’s preservation and deliverance out of Egypt, and as a foreshadowing of Christ. Their safety and deliverance were not a reward of their own righteousness, but the gift of mercy. They would be constantly reminded that all blessings came to them through the shedding and sprinkling of blood. It is that way for us with Christ. His perfect life had to be laid down for us to be made righteous. Apart from the loving sacrifice of our Savior, we are not safe, and have no hope.
There were two ways from Egypt to Canaan. One was only a few days’ journey, and the other was much further. Through the wilderness was the way in which God chose to lead his people Israel. The Egyptians were to be drowned in the Red sea, and the Israelites were to be challenged and humbled in the wilderness. God’s way is the right way, though it can sometimes seem more burdensome and tortuous. In some of our trials, we may not ever understand God’s purposes this side of heaven. But, God’s wisdom will clearly appear when we come to our journey’s end.
Exodus 8-10…God send more plagues on Egypt.
In the preview to the plagues, which introduces and interprets them, the plagues are termed “miraculous signs and wonders.” This does not mean that they are simply amazing miracles. The purpose of the sign was to impart knowledge. Also, a wonder basically points to something extraordinary, the purpose of which is the mediation of a certain message. The plagues are not simply acts of judgment, but have a peculiar ability to point beyond themselves and instruct. This designation for the plagues establishes a basic biblical category, so it is vital to understand exactly what is meant by it. Signs/wonders are not just punishments. Judgment is to follow the signs according to 7:3-4 and is not mentioned again until 12:12. Judgment and instruction are not, however, mutually exclusive. There is an element of judgment to the signs, but this lies in the fact that as Pharaoh reflects on them he should understand his own helplessness and pending doom.
Signs/wonders are indicators of a greater judgment to come, intended to provoke a response before that greater use of power becomes necessary. In answer to Pharaoh’s question in 5:2, “Who is Yahweh?”, the plagues teach him about this unknown God and reveal his nature. Nowhere is this clearer than 9:16 – Pharaoh is still alive and the plagues continue so that God can show his power and so that his name (character) may be proclaimed. The plagues did indeed achieve this purpose of revealing his power and name (to Egypt, 14:25; to Jethro, 18:1; to the Philistines, 1 Samuel 4:8). God establishes his reputation and renown, and a response of obedience and fear, merited by his power, is achieved to some extent (9:20; 11:3; 14:25; 18:9). Pharaoh’s culpable hard-heartedness is therefore clearly revealed when he refuses to obey.
When we read this, we should have an understanding and experience in line with Pharaoh. If we read this and think we would never disobey in this way, then we’ve missed the point of these plagues and their application to us. We are rebellious and stiff-necked, just like Pharaoh. We need a Saviur, and were dead in our sins and transgressions, until He rescued us. We had no hope and no way to save ourselves. Now we are a people of the greatest hope, and through repentance and faith in Christ, have eternal life with him.
Exodus 1-4…The Israelites are oppressed in Egypt, Moses is born and flees to Midian (Northwest Saudi Arabia today) after killing an Egyptian, Moses encounters the Lord in a burning bush, and Moses returns to Egypt with Aaron.
God had blessed His people in Egypt through Joseph. But, in Exodus 1, when Joseph died and a new king took over, things changed. The Israelites went from being exceedingly fruitful in all things, to being oppressed. This was part of God’s plan for them, just as trials are part of His plan for us. It is not a matter of “if” trials come for us, it’s when.” We know based on James 1:2-4, that we can trust the Lord in trials, and even take joy, because He’s using them to make us more like Christ:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
All of these very unlikely circumstances (in both Genesis and Exodus), including Moses being placed into the Nile in a basket, and ending up being raised by Pharoah’s daughter, were for God to make Himself and His glory known. We need to trust His providential hand, and not grumble and complain, because we don’t know always know what His plan is. He often uses difficulties and trials to bring about His glory.
Moses flees to Midian, and marries Zipporah, then God appears to him in the burning bush. He reveals to Moses a name that denotes what He is in Himself; I AM THAT I AM. This name signifies four things in particular:
1. That He is self-existent: He has His being of Himself.
2. That He is eternal and unchangeable.
3. That He is incomprehensible; we cannot fully understand Him.
4. That He is faithful and true to all his promises.
In Exodus 4:13 we see Moses’ fear of man when he says, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” It is just like God, to take a man fearful, meek and afraid, and turn Him into a servant-leader. Are you praying the Lord would use you in the lives of others for their spiritual good? If you are afraid, remember Moses, and pray that God would take away your fear of man. If you don’t have an interest in the spiritual well-being of others, and aren’t spending time on this important piece of the Christian life, then repent and obey God’s word.
1 Thessalonians 5:10-11
“He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”